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The heat is on

The IPCC has spoken and their warnings are stark: climate change is impacting all continents, with northern Europe facing the prospect of increased flooding, heat waves and droughts.

In their report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) state: ‘Observed impacts of climate change have already affected agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people’s livelihoods.

‘The striking feature of observed impacts is that they are occurring from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the wealthiest countries to the poorest.’

The report, which can be found here, highlights the opportunities that exist to help mitigate potential effects of rising temperatures with Vicente Barros of the University of Buenos Aires, and co-chair of Working Group II noting: ‘We live in an era of man-made climate change…Part of the reason adaptation is so important is that the world faces a host of risks from climate change already baked into the climate system, due to past emissions and existing infrastructure.’

‘Coping with current threats is actually the first step in preparing for the future. We have good evidence that spending on disaster prevention is much more cost effective than spending on disaster clean up. This is a classic ‘no regrets’ strategy that can improve livelihoods and well being now and in the future,’ said Prof Paul Bates, member of the Royal Society Working Group on Human Resilience to Climate Change and Disasters.

The world’s first legally binding climate change target, as set out in the 2008 Climate Change Act, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by at least 80 per cent by 2050, a challenging but laudable ambition but a long way into the future for those that need to pay their energy bills now and are looking at shale gas as an attractive energy option.

The US Environmental Protection Agency notes: ‘compared to the average air emissions from coal-fired generation, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one per cent as much sulphur oxides’, with the British Geological Survey noting in 2012 that the UK could be sitting on 150bcm of shale gas reserves.

Many commentators have pointed out the potential impact on the on the climate were shale reserves to be realised, but these pale compared to the estimated three to 23 trillion tonnes of coal buried mainly in the North Sea that will be up for discussion today at the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng).

RAEng host Innovation in Energy, an afternoon event that will highlight some of the most recent advances in the energy sector.

Session 3 sees Dr Dermot Roddy, chief technology officer, Five Quarter Energy deliver a talk entitled Unconventional gas from in situ coal.

His company has developed what it calls a Deep Gas Winning process that gasifies coal and associated strata in situ in order to extract ‘high energy values from the rocks and capturing all the resulting C0₂.’

According to yesterday’s Sunday Times, Roddy will use the event to highlight the scale of the deposits and reveal plans to sink the first boreholes using a rig on the coastline around Tynemouth to bore vertically for hundreds of metres. The drill would then be rotated to head horizontally out under the North Sea, seeking the estimated 2bn tonnes of coal lying immediately off that section of coast.

‘We believe there is another way to use coal to generate energy and industrial feedstocks – beyond conventional mining and burning coal for power production, which will otherwise dominate the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies in China, India and elsewhere,’ the company says on its website. ‘The subsequent effects of high carbon emissions on global climate change can no longer be tolerated.’

It isn’t uncommon for commuters to be left standing during their daily grind into work on Britain’s trains but a range of measures set out today aim to alleviate this.

Network Rail today set out its five-year £38bn spending and investment programme, which aims to provide capacity for 170,000 extra peak time seats for commuters, and electrify over 850 miles of railway.

According to Network Rail, the five-year plan will also:

  • Shorten journeys and provide for hundreds more daily services in the Northern Hub, which provides services between cities in South and West Yorkshire, Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside.
  • Transform hundreds of stations around the country including London Bridge, Manchester Victoria, Birmingham New Street and Glasgow Queen Street
  • Renewing over 7,000km of track
  • 300,000m² worth of station platforms replaced
  • Improve train punctuality to 92.5 per cent across the country
  • Cut the cost of running the British railway network by 20 per cent making it one of the most efficient in Europe
  • Invest in new technology and equipment that will deliver step-changes in productivity and efficiency 

Today’s announcement is tempered by reports that Network Rail is likely to be fined £70m by the Office of Rail Regulation for delays suffered by passengers.

Finally, the global civil aerospace industry continues its ascent with new data from ADS Group showing record levels for aircraft deliveries and order backlogs at the end of February 2014.

According to ADS, the data indicates approximately nine years of work in hand, which is due to a backlog of almost 21,000 engines and 11,318 aircraft. The trade body adds that this is an increase of 13 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, compared to the same period last year.

The figures also show that aircraft deliveries were up 10 per cent in January and February this year compared to 2013. 

Readers' comments (30)

  • It seems they never bothered to read WG1 wherein they might have discovered that there is little or no climate change effects to be found anywhere just yet beyond Arctic sea ice decrease (which is also debatable because of the somewhat unexpected Antarctic sea ice increase of course).

    As such these are only worst case scenarios that rely on inadequate models and pessimistic gut feelings rather than the actual facts that crop yields are still increasing year on year as is global NPP (greening of the planet) according to satellite data and there is no increase in weather extremes in the data. No surprise really because all of history tells us that mild warming is better than cooling for life on earth.

    If adaptation is now the 'in' thing they'd have done better to just read 'the skeptical environmentalist' years ago and not wasted everyones time with the previous and entirely unsubstantiated proclamations of doom based on unvalidated models whose input assumptions are now well refuted.

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  • Jason,

    As engineers, we should should be aiming to 'get it right'. A shame therefore that you have fallen foul of the common ITS apostrophe problem:

    "Network Rail today set out it’s five-year £38bn spending and investment programme, which aims to provide capacity for 170,000 extra peak time seats for commuters, and electrify over 850 miles of railway."

    But regarding the news item itself - great news. Fantastic value for money for train-users and the environment compared with HS2!


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  • JamesG is right on target. Follow the money and it's purveyor’s and you will see the push for raising the cost of living to two classes of people ~ the haves & have not’s or wealthy and poor saying good bye to the middle class and any attempt for opportunity to reach the freedom current for engineering hopefuls because the majority of the population will struggle to even put food on the table.

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  • If Network Rail is going to achieve all the improvements quoted above within the next five years why is the Government pressing on with HS2. It's the same old story of vested interests misdirecting politicians so that those parties can make a fast buck. Where are the Government's independent experienced advisors who can evaluate any proposals put before them?

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  • More self serving Chicken Little cries from the discredited IPCC. I guess they have taken a leaf from Joseph Goebbels manual, it goes, 'If you tell a lie often enough the people will eventually believe it"
    Climate change is real but man made climate change is doubtfull at least to the extent claimed by the politically driven IPCC

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  • Obama was here on the west US coast in Feb touting how global warming had created the drought, including in our area. As of now, here in western Washington State, we're well above average in snowpack and rain.

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  • The scientific reports were released by a whistleblower last year. They downgraded the risk compared to previous reports.

    The Summary report is a political document that exaggerates the conclusions of the scientific reports.

    As they have done in the past, they will now rewrite the scientific reports to match the summary report.


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  • The main thing with the weather changing the way it is now, is that it is possible to reverse the current rain & harsh weather during the winter. Many of the things responsible can be changed back if something is done now. The problem is that no one is doing anything about it. Everyone just talks about this & that without any action! If they started now we may just get everything back the way it used to be in a 100 years or so!

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  • Does anybody care?

    Let's build some more nuclear reactors and heat up the atmosphere some more, instead of insulating our homes and offices and shops and government buildings and schools.

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  • Alternatively, we might put the offices where the people are and then connect the offices by telephone lines and Internet.

    Then people would need to travel less.

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